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Putting Bradford’s supposed $25 million per year demand in context


As the 49ers get settled in with a new head coach, the team previously coached by their new coach needs to figure out whether it needs to get a new quarterback.

Based on a piece of information that surfaced this week, it probably does.

Jim Trotter of ESPN has reported (via that Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford’s agent, Tom Condon, “came in asking for $25 million a year.”

That’s shocking in isolation. In context, it may make plenty of sense.

The $25 million likely was an opener. And it possibly was articulated in response to an opener from the Eagles.

When Condon was negotiated a pay cut with the Broncos for Peyton Manning, Denver initially asked for a $10 million reduction. from $19 million to $9 million. Condon and Manning were appropriately insulted; the Broncos then explained it was merely an opener. Ultimately, through the back-and-forth of negotiation, the salary was reduced to $15 million, with an opportunity to earn all of it back. (Win this weekend, and Manning will earn half of it back.)

As to Bradford, $25 million makes sense as an opener -- especially if (for example) the Eagles had opened by offering something like $10 million per year. The $15 million spread would then be whittled down to, say, $16 million per year, which is hardly unreasonable in light of the current market.

With Bradford, the whittling process became problematic because no one knew how good he would be, after two seasons lost to a torn ACL. Now, the Eagles must put a value on a guy who started 14 games, completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,725 yards, threw 19 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions, and fumbled the ball 10 times, losing three. That value then will be compared to whatever another team would be willing to pay, and Bradford will have to make a decision.

Ultimately, he’s not getting $25 million per year. He also won’t be getting $10 million per year. The end result will be somewhere in between, as it would have been if the opening positions from Condon and the Eagles had sparked meaningful discussions resulting in a long-term deal.

The quibbling over money overlooks a very important factor in negotiations that ultimately went nowhere. Bradford feared that Chip Kelly would sign Bradford to a favorable contract and then trade that contract to another team. In the end, that dynamic may have had more to do with the failure to get a deal done than the predictable pie-in-the-sky and lowball numbers that get swapped early in negotiations.